I had an email from Arthur (thanks) asking me about the Votadini suggested to be the subject of the Welsh poem Gododdin. As a result I did some research and this is what I found.

The question regarding the "Votadini" was interesting, but like so many other "proofs" of a Welsh language, the proof boils down to the similarity of words which look very similar because they have been modified to be similar.

And so as normal, when we look, we find that there is no such tribe as the "Votadini", instead the textual records only contain an "Otadinoi".

To get from Otadinoi to Gododdin one needs:-

  • to add an unrecorded consonant prefix.
  • Change t → d.
  • change initial a → o
  • etc.

What we end up with is not much ... a "-din" suffix which is relatively common, a (presumed) missing prefix (G) and one consonant with significant change (d ↔ t).

This means that the criteria for matching is so lax that it means with 24 or so consonants there will be around 1 in 12 words with two syllables of which one is the -din suffixe which match "Gododdin". Is a 1 in 12 match significant? It might become significant if we can be sure of the search area?

Checking the location of the Otadini, I find that in the Ptolemy map (the only source) they are south of the Damnoni and north of the Brigantes. This isn't anywhere near Edinburgh where they are usually located. All their towns are toward Hadrian's Wall except Alauna. Alauna is a problem because it appears three times. The map is distorted in this area and it is possible that one town was in some way recorded twice, but even so, both settlements are some distance away and north of the Forth-Clyde, but the river (and rivers are likely to be more accurately placed being near the coast) is within their area.

So, the texts seem to place the Otadini near Berwick.

Looking at Gododin, I find that it does not say where it is located. Instead there are three identifiable place names:

Trembling with fear of Cunedda,
Will be Caer Weir and Caer Liwelydd.

And again,

A hundred times ere his shield was shattered in battle,
Bryneich obeyed his commands in the conflict.

The modern names of the localities, mentioned in these extracts, are believed to be respectively Warwick, Carlisle and Bernicia. Warwick and Carlisle are not incompatible with a Welsh or Cumbrian homeland. So the only reason Goddodin is located so far north is because of the mention of Bernicia. So, what is the relationship between the Welsh speaking author of the poem and the Bernicians, it appears from these lines:

“Ar deulu brenneych beych barnasswn
Dilyw dyn en vyw nys adawsswn.”

If I had judged you to be of the tribe of Bryneich,
Not the phantom of a man would I have left alive;

The Bernicians were at the time of the Gododdin opposed to the Welsh. The Welsh, applied the term Bryneich to such of their kindred as allied themselves to the enemies of their country, as is abundantly manifest in the works of the medieval Bards. So the Bernicians are hardly a "homeland" for Gododdin. But were the Bernicians Welsh speaking? Shortly after Gododdin, the area of the Bernicians was certainly Germanic speaking. But the name Bernicia is presumed to be older and is usually stated as Welsh meaning something like "valley people". But could it be Old English?

Looking at Old English we find:

Beornica ríce, es; n : The kingdom or province of the Bernicians

Beorne A coat of mail
Beorn-wiga [wiga a warrior] (A soldier, hero)
Beorn (I Man; II Prince, Nobleman, chief,general, warrior)

Looking to see if "Beorn" could be indigenous, I find:

Beoran - to bare
bearn, es; n. A BEARN, child, son, issue, offspring, progeny;

An alternative meaning could be:-

bere-ærn, ber-ern, beren, bern, bearn, es; n. A barley-place, a corn-place, a barn;
Beor - beer

So, Bernica could easily derive from Germanic with the -ica suffix perhaps being a contraction of "rice" (kingdom).